Baltimore Arena GM Frank Remesch: Renovated Facility Will Host 50-60 Concerts Per Year

Longtime Baltimore Arena general manager Frank Remesch says the facility, which is currently undergoing a $200 million-plus renovation, will host 50 to 60 concerts a year and target one-off sporting events rather than regular tenants in the future.

The Baltimore Arena opened in October 1962, and scores of plans have been examined throughout the years to either renovate or replace it. Last June, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced that the Baltimore Development Corporation would negotiate exclusively with Los Angeles-based Oak View Group on a lease and managing agreement to renovate the nearly 60-year-old facility.

Remesch says details are still being sorted out but that the renovation will knock out the stage on one end of the area, add luxury suites and improve the facility’s sightlines, concession stands and acoustics. The renovation will allow Baltimore to go “toe-to-toe” with other cities for big-time concerts. The building hosted 15 to 20 concerts a year prior to the renovation but should be able to host 50 to 60 now, according to Remesch.

“This is a building that will be able to compete against D.C. and Philly and all the other primary buildings throughout the nation,” Remesch said on Glenn Clark Radio April 27.

Remesch compared a renovated arena’s impact on the west side of downtown to the impact felt in Chinatown in D.C. when the then-MCI Center opened in 1997. He predicted restaurants, hotels, shops and parking facilities would pop up around the Baltimore Arena, contributing to a “resurgence” of that area of downtown.

“I’m sad in a way because they’re dismantling something that I’ve been part of for 30-some years, but it’s like getting rid of your old car. You’re sentimental about it, but … oh my God, this is going to be great for Baltimore,” Remesch said.

The CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament was the last event at the arena before it was shut down as part of an extensive makeover. The CIAA is scheduled to be the first event in the renovated arena in 2023. Remesch is also interested in bringing back one-off sporting events like Maryland men’s basketball, Capitals and Wizards games.

The likelihood that an NBA or NHL team ever comes to Charm City is quite slim because the Capitals and Wizards own the territorial rights, and the market size of Baltimore suggests a third major team wouldn’t be coming to town anyway. But other teams have called the Baltimore Arena home, such as the Blast (indoor soccer), Brigade (indoor football), Bandits and Skipjacks (minor league hockey).

Could such a tenant be possible in a renovated arena? Don’t bet on it, according to Remesch.

“You just don’t make enough money to justify the dates. That’s the problem,” Remesch said. “People don’t want to hear it, but God only made 52 weekends and everyone wants them. You make a whole lot more money for the city and for the arena itself with concerts than family shows. People don’t want to hear it, but I think you’re better off with how we did it before.”

The arena found a successful formula in recent years, putting on about 105 events per year compared to 195 in the early ’90s. The arena attracted some major acts in recent years like Justin Bieber, Garth Brooks, Janet Jackson, Prince and Justin Timberlake. The arena will continue down that path even after the renovation, according to Remesch.

“The God’s honest truth is the new building is going to be built for concerts — primarily a concert building,” he said.

That doesn’t mean significant indoor sporting events can’t come to Charm City. Remesch said it could “absolutely” be one of eight cities to host games during the first weekend of an NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Baltimore Arena hosted its only NCAA Tournament games in 1995, when a top-seeded Wake Forest team came to town. The Demon Deacons were coached by Dave Odom and starred Tim Duncan.

Oklahoma State was also in town that weekend. Cowboys center Bryant Reeves, nicknamed “Big Country” because he measured in at 7-foot and 275 pounds, was taken sixth overall in the 1995 NBA Draft after averaging 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds as a senior. But before that happened, he made Remesch a little nervous during that NCAA Tournament.

“He shattered our backboard [during practice],” Remesch recalled. “Now we’re down to two for the whole tournament. It hasn’t started yet. I walked over to him and said, ‘Please, please don’t do that.’ This is before they had the spring-loaded, anti-shatter ones. ‘Please don’t do that again. We don’t have any more.’ … He was nice enough not to do it again and the rest is history.”

For more from Remesch, listen to the full interview here:

Rendering Courtesy of Oak View Group

Luke Jackson

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